The last week and a half has marked somewhat of a milestone in life here at Chez Powell. The pigs went to slaughter and we’ve been processing pretty much every day since. Rather than try and cram all of this into one post I thought I’d break it down a little. This also means that I am now “committed” to writing a couple of posts in relatively (for me!) quick succession
|The last supper|
Of course, if you want to eat pork, first of all you need to kill a pig. At least you do if you haven’t gone out to the supermarket to buy it. Before this you need to rear it and look after it. We’ve tried to keep our pigs as humanely as possible. They’ve been kept outdoors and their food was a mixture of bought from our local mill, which is organic and all locally sourced, and veg garden waste. Their pen surrounded an old lime tree to give them shade in the sun along with their pig ark for sleeping and rain/snow protection. I think that even if you don’t have the opportunity to rear your own pigs you should at the very least demand more humane standards from your supplier. A common complaint about pork reared this way is that it is too expensive for the “average” family to afford. In answer to this I say, don’t buy it then. Forgo it this week or month and get some as a treat. In western society we eat too much meat and perhaps if we ate less the welfare of our animals would improve.
Day one of our processing was slaughter. I felt it was important to go with them and I was there when the final deed was done. I felt that it was part of my responsibility to the animals to see it through to the end and make sure it was done properly. Which it was and was done very quickly. Other than being somewhere a bit new I don’t think they pigs knew much about it. It’s an odd mixture of sad to see them go, a realisation that such a big animal is going to die to feed you but proud that a massive step has been taken in self sufficiency and the knowledge that we gave them the best care we could (certainly a lot higher standard than your average supermarket pig would have had). Once you have a dead pig that isn’t the end. You need to drain the blood and remove the hair and top layer of skin. This was done with blowtorch, scraping and washing as we went along. The guts were taken out, which we kept, and the pigs were sawn in two.
|A census pig tried to test me once!|
|Dracula's midnight snack|
Number one of these is the blood. The last two to three hours of the day were spent making black puddings. Essentially what you do is mix the blood with sautéed onions, fat, cream, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and then pretty much whatever else you want as flavourings. We kept ours simple this year throwing in a few spices only. Then you fill some casings and simmer for a bit.
|Stuffing the pudding!|
The most difficult part is filling the casings. After it took nearly two hours to make twelve and we lost three when they exploded in the water we decided to simplify things by cooking it up as a “cake”. This was then sliced up and put in the freezer in breakfast portions. As the next day was going to be spent butchering four sides of pork and it was now nearly two in the morning the bed did call.
|One happy customer|
The biggest disappointment of the day were the intestines and stomachs which I just couldn’t clean out and they kept splitting. Spilling their contents all over the bath! However I read about the old cabbage trench that British farmer/smallholders used to use before the world went all squeamish about dealing with waste. They would dig a trench and everything would go into it. Urine, poo (human), chicken and rabbit inners etc etc. At the end of the year this would be covered in compost and the following spring the cabbage break would be planted on it. Inspired by this our inners started off the new compost heap with everything from this year’s heap that hasn’t broken down yet on top of them. This heap won’t go on the garden until Spring 2015 so plenty of time for it to break down and release all those nutrients into the compost.
Next post, Days 2and 3: Butchery and offal (Yum yum)